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View of Buck Island from East End, St. Croix, USVI

Plants - Crown of Thorns

Scientific & Common Names:

Euphorbia milii, commonly known as crown of thorns, Christ plant, Christ thorn

Native to:

Madagascar

Description:

Crown of thorns is a succulent climbing shrub growing up to 5 feet tall. It’s blooms are mostly red and its thick stems are covered in thorns. The straight, slender spines, up to 1 inch long, help it scramble over other plants.Cuttings from this plant can be stuck directly in the soil and grow with out an existing root system. The leaves are found mainly on new growth, and are green and tear-shaped, up to 1 inch long and half an inch broad. 

Practical Uses:

The latex of some crown of thorn species has been used for arrow poisons and to stupefy fish for capture.  Euphorbia plants are also used as food by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), like the Spurge Hawk-moths, as well as the Giant Leopard Moth.

Medicinal Uses:

Despite its poisonous properties, in the past the latex has also been used for medicinal purposes. The Chinese use it as a cure for cancer, and some Brazilians believe that it can cure warts.

Toxicity:

The sap is moderately poisonous, and causes irritation on contact with skin or eyes. If ingested, it causes severe stomach pain, irritation of the throat and mouth, and vomiting. Honey made from the flowers of these plants may be toxic.